Concerns over data transfer overseas, Chinese ownership behind BGMI ban

Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI), the rebranded version of PUBG Mobile from Korean game developer and distributor Krafton, was ordered by the Center to be removed from both Google and Apple’s app stores over concerns that the app was sharing data. with servers in China, as per a senior government official.

The official said concerns were raised about the possibility of Krafton sharing personal data of Indian users with foreign countries, especially China, and its ownership patterns, as an entity controlled by China’s Tencent is one of Krafton’s largest shareholders. According to Krafton’s website, an entity called Image Frame Investment (HK) Limited – a wholly owned subsidiary of China’s Tencent Holdings – has an approximately 13.5 percent stake in the Korean company.

According to BGMI’s privacy policy, personal information of its users is stored and processed on servers in India and Singapore. However, it states that data “may” be transferred to other countries and regions to operate the game or to comply with legal requirements. “The legal basis for such processing is compliance with a legal obligation to which we are subject or which have legitimate interests, such as the exercise or defense of legal claims. In the event of transfer to another country or region, we will take steps to ensure that your information receives the same level of protection it would have had if it remained in India,” the game’s privacy policy reads, without clarifying. to which countries the data may be transferred.

It should be noted that before Krafton rebranded PUBG as BGMI and relaunched it in India, the PUBG Corporation – a subsidiary of Krafton – had said in September 2020 that it would not authorize the PUBG Mobile franchise to Tencent Games in India, and all publications took over. responsibilities in the country. Krafton did not respond to a request for comment until after publication.

The blocking order, it is learned, was issued under Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which empowers the government to request intermediaries such as Google and Apple to remove any link “in the interest of sovereignty.” and integrity of India, defense of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for the prevention of incitement to commit any identifiable criminal offense in relation to the above”.

This was the same stipulation the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) had used in 2020 when it ordered the blocking of BGMI’s predecessor, the popular battle royale game PUBG, along with 117 other apps believed to be are of Chinese origin because they are supposed to be engaged. in activities that “damaged the sovereignty and integrity of India, the defense of India, the security of the state and public order”. Previously, the same legal provision was invoked when the ministry banned the popular short video app TikTok.

The game was removed from the Apple and Google app stores late Thursday night. After that, a Krafton spokesperson had said it “clarified” how BGMI was being removed from the app stores. A Google spokesperson said that after receiving the blocking order, it notified Krafton and blocked access to the app on the Play Store in India.

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Banned a lot of apps

In addition to BGMI and its predecessor PUBG India, hundreds of apps believed to be of Chinese origin and suspected of misusing data have previously been banned by MeitY.

Since the game’s relaunch in a new version, calls have been made to ban it, which has gained momentum after a 16-year-old boy allegedly shot his mother for stopping him from playing “online games like PUBG”. . Last week, Rajya Sabha had asked MP V Vijayasai Reddy if the MeitY was taking action against apps like PUBG where “some children have also committed crimes when they were prevented from playing the game”.

To this, Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar had replied: “Several reports and complaints have been received to Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, showing that blocked apps appear with a new avatar using similar sounding names or rebranded with the same functionality. All such reports and grievances have been forwarded to the Ministry of Interior (MHA), the requesting agency for investigation.MeitY follows due process as defined in the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009″.

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In February, an Assam-based NGO named Prahar had written a letter to the MHA and MeitY to block BGMI under Section 69(A) of the IT Act, claiming it would pose a threat to India’s sovereignty and integrity , the defense of India, the security of the state and public order.

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